Roy Leban of Puzzazz, a puzzle company, is running a Kickstarter campaign for a puzzle a month for a year. The unique thing about this campaign is that it is itself a puzzle. The project video includes a whole bunch of clues related to interesting and geeky people like Theodore Gray, Nolan Bushnell, and (gasp) me! The Kickstarter puzzle is free to everyone, whether or not you’re backing the project. However, if you like the puzzle, you may want to help out the project to get the full year of puzzles!
We got some excellent guesses in our recent mystery object post, right up to and including the right answer. Jim, Michael D. Pinho, and Einstein all answered correctly that it is a handheld wire straightening tool.
Manufactured by Du-Bro, you can find these in fishing stores for straightening “wire leaders.” Wire leaders are short lengths of steel wire used at the end of a fishing line when fishing for big fish with sharp teeth that might otherwise bite through your line.
They’re also pretty handy around the shop. We have two different sizes of these, for straightening different gauges of wire.
To use one, you place the wire that you wish to straighten in the center of the three hinged rods and clamp the rods together in your hand. And then, with quite a bit of effort, you pull the wire straight through the center. Doing so forces the wire to bend around the bumps on the rods, straightening out any kinks and twists with surprising effectiveness.
Here is an interesting thing that we picked up recently— and we realized that almost no one recognizes it. We’ll give you a few hints, but can you figure out what it is, and what it is for?
The object consists of three solid metal rods with raised bands around them, hinged such that that they can smoothly move with respect to one another, and that each of the rods can be turned freely.
In fact, you can fold it all the way over onto itself.
And here is a size reference, it fits nicely in your palm.
So, what is it? Please leave your educated guesses in the comments!
Update: Yes, it’s a wire straightening tool— read more about it here.
AJ Fisher posted an incredibly thorough write-up about his Twitter/Raspberry Pi/Arduino controlled LED lit Eggbot decorated Christmas tree ornaments. Each ornament would light up when twitter keywords represented by their icons were being used.
In the words of a friend of ours, “It makes me feel as though there are people all over the world celebrating with their family and friends just like we are, and you’ve brought them all into the room with us” – and if that’s not what doing this sort of technology is all about then I don’t know what is.
The article includes techniques he used, links to his code, source vector art, and so much more.
Our neighbor, Don Burns, is working on one of the biggest kits we’ve seen: an Easy Riser biplane hang glider. The first page of the plans is shown above.
Don let me take a few pictures of his work in progress— the wings are hanging above his well-equipped workbench.
The plans are filled with quirky reminders and tips, the occasional misspelling, and bits of humor.
Thanks for sharing your project, Don!
We’re not sure what it it is about Hanukkah that brings out the Star Trek fans, but they’re back. First, Joyce brings us an updated TNG hanukiah. Joyce was one of those responsible for the epic menorah we posted about in 2009. The LED on the Enterprise is being worked on–we think they may have a problem with their dilithium crystals.
Next, VanEdge posted this menorah in the forums. Both of these fine examples are based on Pez dispensers, which seem to be a handy size for holiday hacking, particularly when combined with our LED Menorah kit.
Happy Hanukkah to you both, and thank you for sharing your projects!
Our friend Ben sent us this picture of his son’s “robot” costume:
…lit with, what else, EMSL surplus traffic light— kill your eyes —LEDs. It’s five series pairs of your LEDs pointed up inside the costume and down the sleeves so the light bounces around and positively pours out of every crevice – highly visible for trick-or-treating! There’s another two pairs, not lit in the picture, controlled by the momentary switches on the front panel for “turn signals.”
Thank you, Ben for sharing your project! And we still have just a few more of those eye-killing LEDs in the shop.
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories Fall Open House
If you’re in the bay area this week, we hope you’ll join us for our open house:
When: Thursday, November 29, 5 pm − 9 pm
Where: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
175 San Lazaro Ave, Suite 150
Sunnyvale, CA, 94086
You can check out our latest projects, meet Zener the cat, shop for holiday gifts, and share in food and conversation. We’ll also be running a hangout for non-local attendees, and will post the link on our Google+ page when it goes live.
Photo by Steve Hoefer.
Alter Itay sent us pictures of a bar he designed with our Interactive LED Panels installed under the glass bar top.
This is a popular use for the panels, but we rarely get to see the end results, as the bars they get installed in are all over the world.
As the patrons interact with each other and the bartenders they trigger the sensors and their drinks are illuminated by the LEDs.
Thanks very much to Itay for sending us the pictures and letting us share them!
Michael wrote in with a great question:
I currently have a cheapo soldering iron from radio shack. It’s great for making speaker wire and stuff like that. I am concerned that dealing with these delicate boards if it is the right tool. Do you guys have a certain one that you might recommend? If I accidentally break a board I’d like it to be for something cooler than I used a bad soldering iron.
The iron that you use makes a big difference in how long it will take you to build a kit. Using an ultra-low-end soldering iron can make it take much longer to assemble a kit, and will make mistakes easier to make.
Our favorite soldering irons are made by Metcal, but they start at a few hundred dollars, so they aren’t practical for everyone. If you’re lucky enough to live near an electronics surplus shop, they sometimes have used medium-high end workhorses like our backup and travel soldering iron shown above. Replacement parts are available for these, and they last nearly forever.
For a relatively inexpensive, but still reliable soldering iron for electronics, we recommend the WLC100 by Weller, which is about $40 new. Whatever one you end up getting, we recommend one of this design— a “pencil shape” soldering iron (not gun!) with a reasonably fine point tip, and a base that holds the iron and a wet sponge.